After a few days off, the Denver Nuggets go on the road to Staples Center to play a preseason bout against the Los Angeles Lakers. Yes, it’s meaningless, but an injury at shooting guard and lineup questions at power forward could change 40 percent of the lineup on opening night. Gary Harris is out for the next few weeks, and nobody really knows who will start at power forward anymore.
With that in mind, the next seven games start to take on a bit more importance in finding out who will be the major contributors on this Nuggets team. Each rookie drafted (Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, and Juancho Hernangomez) along with Jusuf Nurkic has at least a small chance to join the starting lineup. That in and of itself provides some intrigue against a team that very few Nuggets fans want to succeed.
Who: Denver Nuggets vs Los Angeles Lakers
When: 8:30 PM MT
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
How to watch: NBATV, seedy online streams
Rival blog: Silver Screen and Roll
|Denver Nuggets||Los Angeles Lakers||Advantage|
|PG||Emmanuel Mudiay||D'Angelo Russell||None|
|SG||Will Barton||Lou Williams||None|
|SF||Danilo Gallinari||Luol Deng||Nuggets|
|PF||Nikola Jokic||Julius Randle||Nuggets|
|C||Jusuf Nurkic||Timofey Mozgov||None|
|Key Bench Guys||Jameer Nelson, Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Juancho Hernangomez||Jose Calderon, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance, Traik Black||Nuggets|
1. Who will the starting shooting guard be?
Michael Malone has come out and hinted that Will Barton will get the first crack at the starting lineup while Harris is sidelined, which is to be expected. Barton is the most veteran of three options, and he played a large role off the bench last year. He has earned the opportunity.
Will Barton is expected to get the first chance to step up and assume more minutes in Harris's absence. #Nuggets— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) October 6, 2016
Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley should see bumps in court time as well.— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) October 6, 2016
That being said, he makes the least sense in the starting lineup from a schematic standpoint. Barton is a creator off the dribble with the ball in his hands, and in a lineup featuring Emmanuel Mudiay, Danilo Gallinari, and Nikola Jokic, his touches will be limited. When he does receive the ball, it would likely be off of cuts and screens and spot-ups, which seems like a waste of his skill set.
Murray and Beasley will also be given an opportunity to prove if they are starter quality at shooting guard. Both players possess a skill set much more in line with what is required to flourish in the starting lineup, but both players are also 19. Nothing is guaranteed at that age, and Michael Malone may be unwilling to go through the trials of having a 19-year-old in the starting lineup after he battled through that last season with Mudiay.
Whatever the case may be, it will be a fun competition.
2. Will Kenneth Faried start tonight?
Malone has said throughout camp that he would explore different lineups to see their effectiveness in a larger sample than practice. After commending the #Jurkic lineup, Malone stated that he wanted to explore other options, including a super-small lineup.
One has to wonder who the members of this lineup would be, but I assume it would feature Kenneth Faried at center...right? I mean, he’s shown immense value as a small ball center over the years, dating back to George Karl’s patented death lineup of Lawson-Iguodala-Gallinari-Chandler-Faried. Every lineup the Nuggets played greater than 50 minutes with Faried at center this year had a positive Net Rating.
If Faried isn’t going to be in the big lineup, and it turns out he’s not in the small lineup, then what lineup is he in? What happens when Darrell Arthur returns in the next couple weeks? Lots of questions about one of the faces of the franchise right now.
3. Will Emmanuel Mudiay play better against his rival D’Angelo Russell?
Seven points on 3/11 from the field and 1/5 from beyond the arc with three turnovers sounds like a rookie Emmanuel Mudiay stat line. In his first game back, Mudiay fell into some old habits, settling for the jump shot the defense gave to him and making some unadvisable decisions. Of course it’s difficult when two bigs are in the lane, but Mudiay must make an effort to get better shot attempts.
Will facing the new face of the Los Angeles Lakers help him? Mudiay always seems up to the task to face the player drafted before him in the 2015 NBA Draft. Maybe this matchup, along with some new faces in the starting lineup, brings more focused aggression on Friday night. Nuggets fans better hope so.
Now, let’s go out and play some efficient, injury free basketball please.